The first ever F1 Academy race weekend at the Red Bull Ring was full of controversy and drama, and Prema’s Marta Garcia came through it as points leader.
Restricted access to live timing for sessions earlier in the week and a last-minute announcement that there would be no live audio or video broadcasts for the highly anticipated new all-female junior series was followed by huge drama following two wet qualifying sessions as the pace-setting Abbi Pulling and her Rodin Carlin team-mates were excluded from the results for using non-homologated parts. As a result, Garcia was promoted onto pole for races one and three of the weekend.
Race one started in dramatic fashion, with Campos Racing’s Nerea Marti passing Prema’s Bianca Bustamante for second at turn one and then Emely de Heus (MP Motorsport) and Lola Lovinfosse (Campos) collided at turn three. The incident sent de Heus, Lena Buhler and Carrie Shreiner into the gravel, and therefore retirement.
Marti also passed Garcia at turn three, but Garcia got back ahead a corner later before the safety car was called out.
Racing resumed on lap five, and Marti snatched the lead from Garcia as the latter’s limiter got stuck. She reclaimed it on lap eight, and then pulled away over the remaining 10 laps to win by 8.083 seconds.
Carlin’s Jessica Edgar was eighth at the restart, and later both her and Pulling passed Chloe Chong to gain a place. Ahead of them Hamda Al Qubaisi passed Megan Gilkes to fourth, and late in the race Gilkes spun down to 10th.
It then became a four-way fight for third between Bustamante, Al Qubaisi, Pulling and Edgar, and Al Qubaisi was the next to spin. Pulling avoided hitting her but it meant Edgar got through, and when Marti was disqualified post-race for “a measure on the front Camber Shims below the 3.5mm requirement” it meant Bustamante was promoted to second and Edgar made the podium in third.
Lovinfosse was penalised five seconds for the lap one collision, and Amna Al Qubaisi was also penalised. She started on the reversed-grid pole for race two, and converted it into victory by 1.528s over Buhler.
Lovinfosse completed the podium, Marti edged Hamda Al Qubaisi to fourth after the latter had started 15th on the grid, and Garcia beat Pulling in a photo finish for seventh as the pair made slow progress up the order. Chong was penalised 10s in the race for repeated track limits abuse.
Garcia led lights-to-flag in race three, while team-mate Bustamante failed to take the start. There was initially a big gap to Marti in second, before Hamda got past and she started trimming Garcia’s lead. She finished 0.346s behind, with her sister Amna 1.155s behind in third and Pulling in fourth after also passing Marti.
Race 1 (18 laps)
1 Marta Garcia Prema 30m25.732s
2 Bianca Bustamante Prema +8.083s
3 Jessica Edgar Carlin +8.172s
4 Abbi Pulling Carlin +8.372s
5 Megan Gilkes Carlin +14.792s
6 Chloe Chong Prema +15.918s
7 Hamda Al Qubaisi MP Motorsport +18.915s
8 Amna Al Qubaisi MP Motorsport +19.555s
9 Lola Lovinfosse Campos Racing +21.492s
10 Chloe Grant ART Grand Prix +58.380s
Pole: Garcia, 1m43.073s
Fastest lap: Garcia, 1m31.767s
Race 2 (12 laps)
1 A Al Qubaisi 18m37.685s
2 Lena Buhler ART Grand Prix +1.528s
3 Lovinfosse +3.440s
4 Nerea Marti Campos Racing +5.193s
5 H Al Qubaisi +5.496s
6 Emely de Heus MP Motorsport +10.338s
7 Garcia +11.297s
8 Pulling +11.498s
9 Bustamante +11.948s
10 Carrie Schreiner ART Grand Prix +13.515s
FL: A Al Qubaisi, 1m32.123s
Race 3 (16 laps)
1 Garcia 24m50.619s
2 H Al Qubaisi +0.346s
3 A Al Qubaisi +1.155s
4 Pulling +3.805s
5 Marti +6.682s
6 Buhler +13.804s
7 Schreiner +15.185s
8 Edgar +15.592s
9 Grant +18.367s
10 Gilkes +18.587s
P: Garcia, 1m43.796s
FL: Pulling, 1m31.973s
1 Garcia 58 2 A Al Qubaisi 36 3 H Al Qubaisi 26 4 Pulling 25 5 Edgar 19 6 Bustamante 18 7 Buhler 16 8 Marti 15 9 Gilkes 9 10 Lovinfosse 8